Double Double Act, Unicorn Theatre

https://cdn.thestage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/28124052/Caitlin-Finlay-Jessica-Latowicki-Christopher-Brett-Bailey-Caspian-Tarafdar-in-Double-Double-Act-Unicorn-Theatre1-700x455.jpg

What happens when two experimental performance artists join forces with a few kids to make a kids’ show? Utterly delightful, if messy, madness. 1990s Nickelodeon is a clear influence, as are fart jokes, poo, time bending and parallel universes. An attempt at education intrudes near the end, but otherwise the script is a joyful, jokey celebration of all things silly and gross. There are moments, particularly in the beginning, that are a touch too self-serving for a show pitched to children, but there’s plenty of slapsticky fun for adults and young people alike.

A pair of adults and a pair of children are mirror images of each other who fluidly switch from roleplaying adults to children and back again. The shouldn’t exist in the same dimension, but somehow meet as they’re both trying to get on with performing identical shows. This encroachment on each other’s world naturally annoys them, so the grown-ups try to use their size to their advantage – and satisfyingly fail, but as it’s a kids’ show, everything ends up alright.

Two pairs of children alternate performances so I can’t speak for Seb Booth and Nayana Crowe, but Caitlin Finlay and Caspian Tarafdar demonstrate impressive improv skills and are effortlessly stagey. They have great chemistry with Jessica Latowicki and Christopher Brett Bailey and are the strongest feature of the show.

Latowicki and Bailey trade on their quirkiness here, but it’s brightened and cleaned up appropriately. Bailey hints at his seminal motormouth poetry, but we are denied the privilege of his vivid storytelling. Fortunately, the madcap imaginativeness combined with the vintage concept of the double act works wonders – the kids in the audience are consistently engaged, even if some adults find the lack of linear plot baffling – and the point of the show feels frivolous to those of us accustomed to everything for children being an educational experience. Their part of the intro drags a bit, feeling like it’s all about them and the pace occasionally lags, but the piece feels fairly polished, and the set certainly helps. Emma Bailey’s surprisingly complex design is a series of wonderful reveals.

Individual scenes don’t always fit as part of the whole, but each is a solid setpiece. This is certainly a fun show and a great experiment, but it’s need some slight rebalancing and more cohesion to favour the young audience a bit more.

Double Double Act runs through 9 July.

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